Saturday, January 16, 2016

The Chase

(continued from my safari trip of 2013)

If yesterday's drives were characterized by "the kill", this morning's drive was all about "the chase."   Our first stop was to see a different - third - leopard. It was a relatively young male, but not as young as the male leopard who hangs out at our campsite.  He was larger and just as beautiful. He was laying

up on a mound in the middle of a grassy area. He seemed perfectly content on his elevated perch from which he could survey the land. This turned out to be quite a prime spot. Three unsuspecting birds were walking the ground coming right towards the mound. They caught his attention. The birds kept walking without changing direction or pace. Could they not see him?! He could certainly see them. He began to crouch, following their every movement. Clearly he was seriously considering them for breakfast. I thought he would pounce any second. He didn't. The birds were coming from the right side of the mound from our perspective. They continued in their path around the front of the mound, proceeding towards the left side. The leopard had them in his sight at all times. As they proceeded around the front of the mound, the leopard appeared to lose interest. Surprising. Maybe he was already full.
Then, just when we all thought that today must have been the birds' lucky day, the leopard suddenly re-engaged an interest in the birds. He didn't waste much time now. He quickly and with ease moved from a flat laying down position facing towards the right to a crouched stance facing the left where the birds had gone. He stalked a few steps down the mound and then pounced. His long and beautifully muscular lean body stretched out and he gave chase. Fortunately for the birds, he came up empty mouthed. I'm not sure that the leopard was not just toying with them and using them for sport without any real intent on capturing them. And, so he did not.

The next chase was to run down a sighting of the allusive cheetah. I had yet to see a cheetah, so this being my last drive at this camp with this wonderful guide and tracker, I was very excited. We were quite fortunate because this sighting happened to be on land where not everyone had traversing rights. Our camp, however, had such rights. So off we went to chase the cheetah. Our Guide and driver, Formen, was very aware of how rare this sighting was and did not want us to miss it. So, he took off for this distant property in the quickest way possible. This meant the tar road. He had that Rover going as fast as he was allowed and that wouldn't end up throwing one of us out the side as he hit a bump. He raced over the dirt paths, hills, sticks and other brush to get to the tar road. From there, he said to us "hold onto your hats!" and off we went, racing down the road, chasing the cheetah.

We caught sight of her in an opening between several thickets of tall grass and brush. Gorgeous creature. She had a small wound on her left front leg above her elbow. It looked as if it was recent, but is on the mend. It was still red and somewhat fleshy looking, but not actively bleeding. It didn't seem to impact her much as it didn't change her gait or otherwise seem to bother her much. Apparently a targeted prey gave a good fight in trying not to be her meal that day and she paid a small price for her choice. I wonder...did the prey win, or did she win out in the end despite its attempts...? 
She began to walk to the right towards another thicket of brush and grass, so we followed.

Something seems to have caught her eye. As she entered the thicket and passed through, she crouched as she stalked through the brush. She slowly took one step then another. She leaped into a run giving chase to something she saw. It was not to be this time for her. After missing whatever it was she was after, she settled into a leisurely walk. As we re-positioned our vehicle, she then was walking towards us. Her eyes, a brilliant burnt orange color were
 large and looked almost tear drop-shaped but sideways where the larger part was inset by the nose and the pointy end was at the outside of her face. Absolutely a spectacular beauty,
very much like her leopard cousin, but each differently gorgeous in their own way. As she continued her walk towards us, she walked right next to our Rover at the back and came to a nice cozy spot open in between 2 large bushes. As she reminded us of a house cat, grooming herself like we're accustomed to seeing our pets do the same thing while sitting next to us on the couch, we see the instinctual linkages of the felines, but without ever losing perspective of the wild and beautiful nature of these predators.  We couldn't have planned a more perfect picture taking spot ourselves, thank you very much. More spectacular pictures were made.

This was a near perfect conclusion to my time here at Tanda Tula with my wonderful Guide, Formen, and Tracker, Jeffrey. I could not have been more pleased with my time here.

My only remaining wish was to see the young, thin lion of the 3-male pack having had a good solid meal while I was there. The rumor was that these 3 male lions had moved on to a different part of the bush outside of our area.  I hope to hear of his successful return to a strong healthy state, and I wish him a flourishing spring and summer hunting season.

To see more of my pictures while on safari at Tanda Tula see here: African Safari - Best Shots 1 and here: African Safari Best Shots - 2 

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